The ECB meets in Brussels later. Although euro zone inflation
remains well below its comfort zone, signs the economy is picking up
and still-falling government borrowing costs mean the bank is likely
to hold off cutting interest rates again.
The euro climbed 0.25 percent to $1.3920 in early European trading,
hovering near the two-month peak of $1.3952 it reached earlier in
Traders said it could quickly fall back towards support just under
$1.3800 in the event of any policy surprises, though any doubts the
ECB was preparing for some form of easing in the coming months could
send it upwards again.
"The market is not expecting any policy action today and our view is
if there is going to be any policy easing it will be in June when
they will have new economic forecasts," Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi
foreign exchange strategist Lee Hardman said.
"If (ECB President) Mario Draghi doesn't escalate the concern over
the strength of the euro at the press conference then the euro will
rise, probably above $1.40."
Share and bond markets were also on the front foot, boosted by
supportive comments from U.S. Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen on
Wednesday and signs that Russia is trying to head off a full-blown
conflict in Ukraine.
Upbeat Chinese trade data overnight meanwhile provided some signs of
stabilization in the world's second-largest economy.
As midday approached, the FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top
European shares was up 0.6 percent at 1,350.98 points, as the FTSE
in London <.FTSE>, the CAC 40 in Paris <.FCHI> and Frankfurt's Dax
<.GDAXI> gained 0.4-0.6 percent.
Russian stocks <.IRTS><.MCX> continued their recent rally, hitting a
two-month high as the rouble took a breather having touched a 2-1/2
month high against the dollar. <EMRG/FRX>
The ECB's rate decision is due at 1145 GMT, with Mario Draghi's news
conference at 1230 GMT.
Any lingering hopes of an easing move by the ECB may have been
snuffed out by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said
central banks needed now to pare back their money printing to avoid
inflating fresh asset bubbles.
Wall Street futures pointed to a near flat start in New York later.
Earlier in Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei share average <.N225> had ended up
0.9 percent, while MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares
outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> rose 0.5 percent to climb away from
[to top of second column]
China's exports and imports returned to slight growth in April after
a surprise fall last month, offering signs that Beijing's use of
targeted policy measures to underpin growth may be starting to
stabilize the economy.
Mainland Chinese shares <.CSI300> rose 0.8 percent, also helped by
bets on further stimulus measures after the central bank warned of a
deepening economic slowdown.
Sentiment had already been buoyed after comments on the
"considerable slack" in the U.S. labor market from Yellen had
bolstered the view the Fed would continue to stay in supportive mode
for plenty of time yet.
She, along with a quartet of fellow Fed policymakers, will speak
later in the day in the United States.
Yellen's remarks also kept the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield near
Monday's three-month low of 2.572 percent, though it had edged up
slightly to 2.6287 percent by 1015 GMT, dragging German Bunds with
them to 1.482 percent. <GVD/EUR>
The pound held near a five-year high against the dollar on rising
expectations the Bank of England, which was also meeting, will
tighten policy before the Fed, probably early next year. It last
stood at $1.6963 versus Tuesday's high of $1.6997.
The Australian dollar climbed 0.6 percent to $0.9382 after local
data showed that employment had risen more than expected in April.
With risk sentiment improving slightly, the yen stepped back from a
three-week high to 101.77 yen on the dollar while gold and oil
sagged to $1,290.30 per ounce and $107.69 a barrel respectively.
(Editing by Catherine Evans)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.